APRIL 28, 1934 – DECEMBER 31, 2019
Longtime Austin resident Walter Keene Linscott Ferguson passed away peacefully on Dec. 31. In his last weeks he was surrounded by loving friends and family.
Keene was born in Houston, Texas on April 28, 1934 to Harry Weidel Ferguson and Josephine Linscott Ferguson. He attended St. John’s School in Houston where he graduated in 1952 as head prefect. He attended Princeton and then the University of Texas, graduating from UT with a B.S. in Geology. While at UT Keene was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity where he made many life-long friends. He later attained a M.A. in Geology (1958) and a Ph.D. in History (1969), both also from UT.
Keene started his career in the corporate world, working for Humble Oil as a geologist. But he decided early on that teaching was his true calling. He was an assistant professor of history at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio on two different occasions in the 1970s and 1980s. He also taught history and social studies at St. Stephen’s School in Austin, and later for many years at Hill Country Middle School in Westlake. He was a beloved figure at Hill Country and even drove a school bus for several years. In his later years he taught at the Sage Program at UT. He also worked for the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT.
Keene, like his mother, had an artistic bent. He wrote books and made maps. He was an explorer. He was curious about everything and everybody he met. He was a talented wood carver, stone cutter, bead weaver, jewelry maker, furniture maker, bee keeper, cook, baker, book collector, and bird watcher (during which he spent many enjoyable times with his son Jamie). He even constructed his own BBQ smokers at his houses in Austin and Fort Davis, TX. He did all of these things for the love of it and for his family.
Keene was a naturalist and loved exploring the great outdoors. He and his children spent many summers camping all over the Southwest, from Enchanted Rock to the Gila National Forest in New Mexico to the Los Piños River at Cumbres Pass in Colorado. Birding books and binoculars were always nearby. The place he revered most was West Texas, spending time on his brother-in-law’s ranch outside San Angelo and at his own home in Fort Davis. He also owned a home in Port Aransas where he would bird watch and spend time with his family on the beach. Never one to take to flying, over the years he drove everywhere he went in pick-ups, vans, and Suburbans, almost always with a carload of his kids and their friends. As an outgrowth of these road trips, Keene and a friend authored one of the earliest guides to Texas Roadside Historical Markers in 1977.
Keene had a free and easy spirit. He was kind, humble, and generous with his time. He liked a good party with friends. He did not want to follow the conventional path and structure didn’t always jive with his agenda. He was always upbeat with a smile in place below his kind blue eyes. His hair always seemed tousled and his style very relaxed. He will be missed not only by his family, but also by the many friends and people he touched throughout his life. Keene is now up at that big party in the sky, saying, “Beautiful!”
Keene was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Jolyn, his son Jamie, his first wife Hallie—the mother of his four children, his second wife Patricia—the mother of his two step-daughters, the joy of his last nine years, Lynn Baker, and his special friend and childhood nanny Myrtle Johnson.
Keene is survived by his sons: Scott (wife Kelly) and Jody (wife Mila), by his daughter Hallie (fiancée Stuart), by his two step-daughters Mallory Leitner and Ursula Comeaux (husband Chris), by his ten grandchildren (Rachel, Walt, Claire, Max, Hallie Fei, Alex, Paulina, Phillip, Will and Avery), by three great-grandchildren (Hallie, Neely Wynne and Paul), by his sister Nancy Haywood (brother-in-law Ted), and by numerous beloved nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Keene’s life was held on Saturday, January 18th at Tarry House. A private family interment ceremony was held later. Any memorials should be made to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, 43869 TX-118, Fort Davis, TX 79734 or a charity of your choice.